Sunday, February 25, 2018

Psalm 40:1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bytes of Learning UltraKey Online Family Subscription -- my REVIEW

Typing is one of those skills that every person needs, or will need in the future. Computers and keyboards are such a part of our everyday lives and jobs that the "hunt and peck" method, while it works, might hold one back in terms of efficiency. I definitely want my children to be able to type quickly and accurately. My oldest daughter, who is going to college next year to pursue a computer science degree, has been self-motivated to learn to type and practice it. My other two children use the computer enought that they are semi-comfortable with typing, and they've tried different learn-to-type programs in the past, but I wouldn't call them proficient typists. I was happy to get a chance to try the UltraKey Online Family Subscription by Bytes of Learning to help them improve their skills.

UltraKey Online Family Edition

My 15 year old son and my 13 year old daughter are the students who got to use this typing program.  It was very easy to set up--I logged in and set up accounts for each of them so that they can easily log onto their own account, where they began with proper posture/positioning lessons and set goals for themselves.

I'm definitely glad that they began with the importance of the proper positioning.  Learning bad habits can lead to less efficiency and aches and pains!

Students get to set a goal for how fast they want to type.  The goals can be set through different means, either the Manager (parent in this case) can set the learning goal, the program can set the learning goal for the student, the student can take an assessment to help them set their goal, or the student can set a goal for themself.  
As goals are met, they can be changed if need be (increased or decreased) -- though, beware! Don't let your child think it's too hard when they try and try again to reach that words per minute goal--my daughter was more and more frustrated when she couldn't pass a level...then she tried and tried more and finally learned that it doesn't matter how fast she goes, if her accuracy isn't there, then she doesn't meet the goal -- she slowed down just a tad so that her accuracy improved and though she wasn't "racing" across the keyboard she met that goal and moved up.

So how do the lessons work?  Students are taught a set of letters, they practice them over and over again,

and then they take the skill check to see if they have met that goal.  If they do not, they have the opportunity to receive hints or tips which will help them to meet it.  

The goal chart is a nice motivator and a nice visual for the goals and how they are being met.

My kids both like this program.  It is not their favorite typing program, but they definitely liked this program better than some other typing programs that they have tried.  They both agreed that it is easy to follow and you can improve pretty quickly.  There is a "games" section that they said wasn't really fun :) but they didn't mind.  What it's worth to me is that it is a learn-to-type program that they don't mind doing, it fits nicely into their daily work plan with a short lesson per day, and they (and I!) can easily view their progress.

My daughter wanted to add her two cents' worth:, "The typing thing doesn't let you move on until you passed the skill check, which is good.  One skill check I had, I tried it for about 12-15 times, and still hadn't passed.  I read the advice it gave, and it told me to slow down, and it worked."  

I would definitely recommend this typing program, the UltraKey Online Family Subscription.  It is easy for the parent/teacher to set up, easy for the student to log into and use, easy for the student to learn and progress.  I like that different goals can be set and met. I like that there are hints to avoid frustration. I like the easy to view progress reports.  I like that my kids don't mind using it :) and that they are increasing their typing speed/accuracy with just a few minutes a day.

To read what some other folks thought about this learn to type program, please click on the banner below!

UltraKey {Bytes of Learning Reviews}

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Wulf the Saxon -- Heirloom Audio Productions -- my REVIEW

Audiobooks are such a treat when we are confined to the car! Since my kids were little we have enjoyed listening to a broad range of titles, from children's books to classics to mysteries to silly stories. They are engaged listeners and my husband and I enjoy listening with them. We have enjoyed selections from Heirloom Audio Productions before, so we were excited to listen to the newest title, Wulf the Saxon by G. A. Henty.

Wulf the Saxon

As with other Heirloom Audio Productions titles that we have listened to before, this audio adventure is excitingly dramatized with music, special effects, and a full cast of actors and actresses who bring the story to "life." The story begins with some young boys looking for something interesting--and they encounter a story teller who introduces them to the story of Wulf the Saxon, a young man (old teen) who lives in England in the year 1065. Wulf is in the service of an earl, but goes home to rule his land--and proves himself to be fair and honest to the people who live in his area.  He is called up to serve his earl and he takes the blacksmith's son along with him to help him out.

Wulf and his party embark on a trip by sea and become shipwrecked on the shores of Normandy. They are taken captive, but Wulf escapes and helps to bring them to relative freedom. Wulf and his companion form a positive relationship with a family in the area of Normandy and they fight a battle and then recover there. Before the earl can leave he is kind of double crossed by the fellow he thinks he can trust, William, who forces him to swear his allegiance as well as promise to marry his daughter, before he (Earl Harold) may return to England.

After their return to England, Wulf continues to serve Harold and England. He engages in battles with the Welsh. He fights with enemies from the north, battles foes from the south. He fights and fights and fights, and is quite successful at it.

Eventually Harold is forced to do make a huge sacrifice that he was not happy for, in order to (as he supposes) ensure the safety of England. This actually does not have the intended result, and more wars are fought.  Harold eventually is killed in battle (though Wulf survives), and William (from Normandy) swoops in and takes advantage...and takes the country.'s the time for my take on the audiobook.  Did we like it? Not really. To my family (myself and my 3 teenagers) we felt that it was a lot of wars and battles. From one to the next to the next. My son thought that there was not much battle action (just a lot of sound effects) and for myself, I thought that it was just too much battle then battle then battle then battle.

I think, though, that it did give us a feel for the unsettled-ness of the time period and how some attempted to form alliances, though they were often not as successful as hoped.

The audio quality is lovely. The narration and acting is wonderful. The whole production is done so professionally and nicely.  We just didn't love the story.  Would I recommend it? Honestly, no. We have enjoyed productions before from Heirloom Audio Productions and I imagine we will again in the future. This didn't turn us off to it, Wulf the Saxon just wasn't a favorite story of ours.

To read what others have to say about this audio drama, please click on the link below!

Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Homeschooling high school

We have been homeschooling our kids since they were in 5th, 3rd, and 1st grades (in 2010). We basically jumped right into it when we moved to a state which didn't have a Christian school nearby. We knew before our kids were school-aged that we did not want to send them to a public school. When our oldest started kindergarten, she went to a Christian school that was associated with our church. We loved that school! The teachers love Christ and the students are taught the subjects from a Christian perspective (and with excellent academics!)

In 2010 we moved to our current location and there was not a Christian school anywhere nearby, so we were forced to quickly decide what to do. I had always been of the mindset, "Homeschooling is great, but I will never homeschool my kids!" (as a matter of fact, I had made that assertion before!) Well--having decided to not send them to public school--and having no Christian school around--we plunged (unenthusiastically!) into homeschooling. Quickly we learned to enjoy the freedom we had throughout the school day/year and we really all enjoyed it! We were able to do multiple subjects together with all three kids (history, science, Bible) and we were a part of a great homeschool co-op which provided "fun" extras. As the years progressed, we really have loved homeschooling, spending so much time together as a family, sharing our time and values as a family. We have also had the opportunity to teach our children from a Biblical perspective. AND we had lots of friends who were homeschooling also.

Fast forward to I have 3 teenagers -- one is in 12th grade, one is in 10th grade, and one is in 8th grade. We are still homeschooling. The kids' subjects are more difficult, their school days are longer, not so much "together" learning... Most of our former homeschooling friends have sent their kids to the public school, folks who were homeschooling for religious as well as non-religious reasons have sent their kids to school--so many, in fact, that my kids are now kind of really the isolated ones--the only ones they know nearby of their ages who are still homeschooled. So why are we still homeschooling? Well, for the same reasons. We wanted our kids to have an academically challenging excellent education with Christ at the center. Some people say we're too protective. Well, fine, if that's how you see it, I'm okay with that :) . We are able to share character lessons with our kids at each turn and keep them away from swearing all day and drugs/alcohol, and more.

Is it easy? No :) Does anyone want to hear about our "fun activities" -- no (not so many cutesy projects any more!) Are we still doing it? YES! Friends ask how we decide to still homeschool, as their kids are telling them they want to go to school. My answer is that we made a commitment years ago and it's just not an option. We want to be the ones to guide their education, not the state. We are following what God has laid on our hearts and He will bless us.

**I will say that although our kids are not going to public school, per se, our oldest one is dual-enrolled at the Community College. Is this going against our conviction? No, we don't believe so. We work with her to choose appropriate courses that will prepare her for her chosen college next year, and the social influences and pressures that are present at a public high school are really not there in the community college, she is in classes with students from 60 years old to 16 years old, and has class sizes of about 10 students.

So--just my thoughts. Homeschooling high school can be a lonely, tough time. It is not easy :) but our relationships have definitely benefitted and we have so many opportunities to soak our kids in Gospel truth. And when I say lonely, PLEASE don't jump on the "not enough social interactions" bandwagon :) My kids still have what I might consider too many social interactions ;) -- robotics teams, 4-H, cyberpatriot team, youth group, ballroom lessons, art class, music classes, fiber group, and much much more! I think the "lonely" is for me, but it's just a phase. One I am privileged to participate in. :)

So--here we are, still plugging along, following what God has asked of us--and relying on Him, and thankful for His care and sustaining of us.

Why did I write this? Who knows!?! Just a thought in my mind :)

Anyone else out there homeschooling high schoolers?

Robotics season is here again! :)

Well, we are one week away from our robotics competition! So, so are some pics for any robot fans out there! :)

If you're interested in having your child on a robotics team--finding one or starting one (it's do-able, ask me!) -- check out

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Saturday, February 10, 2018

Standardized Tests (ACT/SAT)

How does your homeschool plan incorporate college-entrance type tests like the SAT and ACT? When do you start having students take them?

For our children, we start with the PSAT in 10th grade (to kind of get used to taking a standardized test) and also we have them take the SAT in the spring of 10th grade, as a kind of freebie, no prep, no stress (other than having to find their way around the school, figure out how to fill in the answer circles, etc).  We'll see how that works for my second child!

For my first child, it worked great, she scored a nice score on that 10th grade SAT, and then when it came time to take the SAT in 11th grade, there was not as much pressure as she had already received a pretty good score. With more math under her belt she easily scored a little bit higher.  She also took the ACT and loved it, thought it was easier (for her) and scored a really nice score as well. She is taking it again today, trying to up her score by 1 point so that she can qualify for $2000 more a year in scholarship money.

My second will be taking his first SAT this spring, we'll see how this method works for him!

As far as prep goes, we didn't do any SAT or ACT prep with any of them (other than regular homeschooling of course!) and so far so good.

How about you?  I'd love to hear what other homeschoolers do for these you do prep? When do you have your students take them? Other insights? Thanks for sharing!

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hearts Entwined by Karen Witemeyer, Mary Connealy, Regina Jennings, and Melissa Jagears -- my REVIEW

Hearts Entwined is a collection of "novellas" (aka short-ish story/books --they're not really short stories, but not full books either!) by four different authors.  The book is labelled as "A Historical Romance Novella Collection." Each novella is written by a different author, most of whom I've read their material before.  The "theme," if there is one, is that they have something about thread/knots/string within the pages (at least three of them do, I can't remember if "Bound and Determined" did.

The first story, The Love Knot is about a woman who receives a huge surprise and also is given the opportunity to rekindle a lost romance.

The second, The Tangled Ties That Bind features Maggie, an aspiring doctor, and Connor, an aspiring husband.

The third, Bound and Determined, follows a soldier who is on a strange mission to accompany a retiree, his fleet of camels, and his daughter across Indian territory.

The fourth, Tied and True, is about a woman who wants to marry a man, that man thinks he is beneath her and refuses to marry her, so she takes extreme measures to make him agree with her.

The four novellas make up a regular-sized book. They are not very long, and if you are looking for something short, you might like these.  For my taste, they were a bit short to really develop characters or the story as fully as I might have hoped. I actually found the book quite dull--basically just short romance stories of wooing or being wooed. Not exactly my cup of tea.  Each was different, set in a different era of history, in a different locale, but just not what I like to read. There was a teeny bit of adventure sprinkled throughout, but just pretty much basically quick romances. Maybe that's what you like, and you'll like these stories!  They are "clean" and not filled with objectionable language or material, and that is a good thing.

So basically, not my favorite, I probably wouldn't have finished it had I not committed to review it, but nothing objectionable.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Does the whole family have to get sick?

So often when one member of our family gets sick, the rest will follow shortly. This is pretty frustrating, right??

My husband is recovering from brain surgery and two of my kids are sick with stomach bugs!! :/ of now, one end of the hall is healthy but recovering from surgery, the other end of the hall is fighting the stomach bug. (and the other daughter hasn't come home from work yet...praying that she's healthy!)

Any tips for keeping the germs to one side of our small house? :) (aside from washing washing washing hands and sanitizing everything I can!)

Prayer. That's what it is, I guess. God is sovereign, He is in control, He will get us through this!

Suggestions welcome, though!! :)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Quick breakfast for hospital waiting :)

Tip for the day:  instead of buying something pricey to eat when you're waiting for someone in surgery or some procedure, take a packet of instant oatmeal and a spoon with you! Most of those places offer you free coffee or tea--just get the hot water you'd use for tea and mix your oatmeal in!  Hot and tasty food that'll fill you up and give you some energy (and save you money!)

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